Hand-washing, after the baptism of Romano Reginald Libante
From the old church, our breath bright with hunger
But between the woven bamboo door
and the table, now heavy with bowls of fish-head soup and pork stew,
Emilia, the village midwife, harasses us
With a bowlful of many flowers floating on water.
She decrees that all of us godparents cannot pass through
unless we dip our hands into
her rite of bowl and blossoms.
"Hunaw," she intones, "hunaw."
Wash your hands, wash your hands.
And we throw in
the green, orange and purple money bills
into the bowl's womb, never knowing truly
why, is it bail or fine,
or paying for the radiance
of water among the flowers
picked right in the middle of day?
But folks say it is mostly to honor the midwife's work
of bringing life out of wombs
and never to honor or hone this small and quick act
of godparenting, for godparents are always less
than midwives --
unlike Emilia's hands, ours are bloodless
in the cool and ivory fragrance
of kalachuchi, hibiscus and purple orchids.